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Martha Zoller tightens race in Georgia 9

Her opponent, Doug Collins, began the race as the favorite, in part because of his close association with Gov. Nathan Deal and backing from the NRA.

With neither the governorship nor either U.S. Senate seat up this year, most of the attention in the Georgia primary Tuesday is focused on the heated primary for the newly-created 9th District.  With 20 counties and parts of others in it, the new 9th is home to every constitutional officer in the Peach State and heavily Republican.  Tomorrow??s primary is tantamount to election to Congress.

The contest for the all-important nomination is also important because its leading characters are representatives of the disparate factions in the national Republican Party:  State Rep. Doug Collins, favorite of the GOP establishment and floor leader in the state House for Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, and Martha Zoller, longtime (16 years) radio talk show host, conservative swashbuckler, and Tea Party favorite.

Collins began the race as the favorite, in part because of his close association with Deal (who formerly represented parts of what is now the 9th District).  He also has the backing of the National Rifle Association, having solidly backed the right to keep and bear arms during his stint as a lawmaker.

But Collins has also had some stumbling blocks that have apparently cost him dearly on the right.  He opposes term limits — still a powerful cause among the tea partiers — and supported placing the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Tax (TSPLOT) to fund transportation projects on the ballot.  This is a measure that national anti-tax advocates such as Grover Norquist as well as local ??ax-the-taxers? opposed vociferously.

For all his reputation as a ??dealer,? Collins has yet to secure the endorsement of Gov. Deal himself.

Enter Martha Zoller, who after so many years of bringing national figures into Georgia homes, is known locally as ??the First Lady of talk radio,? or just ??The Lady.?  Zoller has secured endorsements from all wings of the conservative movement, ranging from Georgia Right to Life to most of the tea party groups — at whose meetings she has long been a speaker.  Among those who have endorsed Zoller are presidential candidates (and Georgians) Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

??I respect all of them and  am proud to have their support, but they aren??t as important as the local support I??ve received — the volunteers who walk precinct, work the computers, host coffees, and make this a truly grass-roots campaign,? Zoller told Human Events between campaign stops Monday morning.

Zoller estimates there are 20-to-30 volunteers manning phones and doing other campaign chores at her headquarters in Gainesville — and, yes, it??s a storefront, she confirmed.

One sign that the race is tightening up is, Zoller told us, ??that my opponent has actually purchased attack ads against me and run them on Fox News.  They take things I said on radio interviews out of context, such as when I??ve played devil??s advocate with a guest, and try to suggest I am not pro-life or I favor same sex marriage.  Come on!  If that were true, I wouldn??t be backed by Georgia Right to Life or the Susan B. Anthony List.?

Zoller added that people who have seen the ads who were undecided have said they know their message is untrue and decided to vote for her over Collins.

The Zoller-Collins contest is not ??the only game in town? in Georgia??s primaries, but it is inarguably the Olympic competition of state politics.  It will be watched closely by the state and national punditocracy.

Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as ??the man who knows everyone in Washington? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on what??s going on in the nation??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as ??Gizzi on Politics? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of ??Gizzi??s America,? video interviews that appear on Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. John??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com